Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Miracle Mile - 10" (6.26.11)

The Miracle Mile is one of my all-time favorite runs, and one which I’ve logged literally hundreds of laps on. To me it feels like more of a training course than your typical kayak run. Since it’s essentially a mile-long boulder garden dropping ~250’, it’s a great place to practice steep creeking, with eddy catching and reactionary boating making up a majority of the curriculum. A couple of other pluses are its relatively long boating season and close proximity to Eugene (about an hour drive). All of these things have made “The Mile” the go-to run for class IV/V Eugene area boaters.

Although The Mile does have a long season, as stated above, it typically drops out by mid to late May -- however, because of the unseasonably deep snowpack, we were now boating it in late June with good levels. This was great news for our buddy Jason, who had moved to San Diego (for work) a few years back, and was making a return visit. I’ve done many laps on The Mile with him over the years, and I was looking forward to a few more. The plan was to get some of the old crew together for boat & BBQ festivities there on Sunday. The forecast called for sunny skies & 75 degree temps, and it looked like we’d have just under a foot on the bridge gauge, what more could you ask for?!

When Sunday morning rolled around, I was still pretty tired from the get together at my house the night before. After rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I went to the store to pick up some food for the BBQ, before Jason showed up at my house. Once he had, we loaded up our gear and headed to the meeting spot in Pleasant Hill. Only four of us ended up showing up there, but we knew that Dan and Kristen planned on joining up later, so we figured we'd still have a good sized group.

As we reached the takeout, we checked the bridge gauge and confirmed that we had 10”, not a bad flow for this late in the season! The sun was out and energized us as we setup the grill and our camp chairs before heading to the put-in, just one mile upstream.

10" on the bridge gauge

It's gonna be a good day!

After unloading the boats and gearing up, I quickly put on the river so I could boat down and setup for photos while the others were setting the back shuttle. This was pretty much the routine for the first couple of laps, so I could get photos of all the main drops on the run. Basically, as soon as they came down and eddied out, I’d jump back in my boat and head down ahead of them to take shots on the next drop. Even though The Mile is basically one long rapid, the named sections make it nice for communicating locations of potentially new hazards (e.g. wood, etc.) and/or meeting points during the run.

The first named section of the run comes just around the corner from the first road bridge you pass under, and is aptly named “Initiation”. Once you pass underneath a couple of overhead logs, the typical line is to run down the left side before breaking right behind a couple large midstream boulders. Below this move it’s pretty much read and run to the bottom of Initiation and a large river-left eddy. This is one of the easier (and cleaner) drops on the run, so if you’re feeling a little over your head you might consider walking off.

The entrance to Initiation

Roman and Andy enter Initiation

Jason, partway down Initiation

Making the move over to river-right

Roman runs the last stretch of Initiation

Jason finishes being Initiated

Now that we had been initiated and were warmed up, we headed down toward the next drop, "Ricochet". This drop can also be identified as the first island, with the only clean routes down the left side of the island. Once you’ve gone left of the island, you can either run left or center-right, with left being quite a bit cleaner. The line that I always take is to run the lead-in down the left, drop into a small diagonal hole, and drive down the main part of the drop toward river center. It’s a fairly bumpy ride, but usually goes better than expected. There is also a fun eddy to catch on river-right just below the drop, which is where I setup for the following photos -- however, getting back in the water was kinda challenging and required me to do a fairly interesting seal-launch.

Shawn drops into the crux of Ricochet

Workin' back to center

The run-out below Ricochet -- Confusion is just out of sight

Just below Ricochet is “Confusion”, which is the longest single drop on the run. There are two main ways to enter this drop, either over a 3-foot ledge in the center, or the more exciting flume to the right. Whichever way you decide to enter, the rest is pretty much read-&-run through a gauntlet of boulders, with some passages cleaner than others. I typically run the first half down the center and the second half down the left. It should be noted that there is some wood on both the hard left and hard right in the second half of the drop. Like most of the run, Confusion benefits from a little more water, and can be quite trashy at low flows (< 8”).

Shawn and Jason run the bottom of Confusion

Roman finishes up Confusion

At the base of Confusion is one of the largest eddies on the run, river left. We almost always regroup here before continuing down into “Shark’s Tooth”. Back in the day we used to run the drop off of "The Tooth" in the middle, but most people now run the right line off a 4’ ledge drop, which is a bit cleaner and sets you up a little better for the run out below. Speaking of the run out, it’s one of the pushier sections of the run and makes for a fun little boulder slalom.

Jason heads toward Shark's Tooth

Shawn gets a kick in the boogie water below Shark's Tooth

Roman finishes up nicely

Now at the second island, aka “Whoop-De-Do”, you have the chose to run down either side. The first is the main line down the left side of the island, which ends with a steep drop down a pile of boulders. The goal here is to continue driving right while trying to avoid getting pushed into the center of the river where it drops through a narrow slot with an undercut rock on the bottom left of it. The far left side (left of the island) really isn’t an option, since it’s basically a giant sieve. The other standard route is to run right of the island, it’s pretty trashy and has affectionately been given the name “Gutter Ball”. You basically crash your way down a narrow twisty chute that also feeds past an undercut boulder, however, it’s fairly benign. Hopefully a big flood will come though and clean this drop up a bit, but until then Whoop-De-Do continues to be the most unpleasant part of the run, at least for me.

Jason running the recommend line at the bottom of Whoop-De-Do.
This is one of the manky sections of the run.

Roman finds some mank

Roman in the run-out below Whoop-De-Do

Next up, “Silly Putty Slot"! My typical line here is to enter through a squirrely flume that seems to always test my bracing skills – this is followed by a fast run before dropping over a 4’ double ledge in the middle of the river. The actual “Slot” (which gives the drop its name) is located to the right of this double ledge on the other side of a large boulder -- this also used to be a common line, but a new piece of wood sits at the base, so it should be avoided.

Roman enters the squirrely chute
leading into Silly Putty Slot

Shawn melts the double ledge at Silly Putty Slot.
If you look carefully, you can the wood in "The Slot"
to his right and on the other side of the large boulder.

Jason drives for an eddy a little below Silly Putty

Below Silly Putty the gradient seems to taper off a bit, but the run remains action packed and has a more wide-open and pushy feel. There are basically two main straightaway sections separated by a boulder fence and large eddy on river right. Both sections are read-&-run with some great boofs here and there. The second section should be entered either hard left or hard right, to either side of the fence. This last straightaway also produces some of the biggest hydraulics of the run; if you run it down the middle – it’s quite a wild ride! We also call this stretch “Swimmer’s Alley” since this is where most people seem to come out of their boat.

Dropping into the straightaway below Silly Putty

Shawn exits the first of the two straightaway sections

Roman and Jason making the moves

Jason drops into Swimmer's Alley

Shawn makes the typewriter move at the top of Swimmer's Alley

Jason near the bottom of Swimmer's Alley

Shawn safely below

Once below Swimmer’s Alley, you are faced with two short stretches separated by the confluence with Christy Creek, a great class V run in its own right. The first part runs through a fun S-turn flume with banked corners. After this the river makes a sharp turn to the right and drops over a fun 4’ boof ledge, typically run on the right. A nice eddy sits on river-right just below the confluence, which can be used to setup for the final stretch of the run. Since you now have the added water from Christy, the river has some good push and fun hydraulics. With the bridge now in view, make your way to the takeout spot just above it on river-left and celebrate. Whew, what a great workout!

The crew heads toward the Christy Creek confluence

Ed gets ready to boof the fun ledge at the Christy Creek confluence

Gabe in the final stretch

Jason and Ed finish up
(photo by Kristin Alligood)

Just another lap on the ol' Mile
(photo by Kristin Alligood)

On this trip we did a total of 4 laps, pretty standard affair for a Saturday or Sunday trip to The Mile. We were also joined by Dan Dellwo, Kristin Alligood, Ed Fredette, and Gabe Flock for the last couple of laps and BBQ, which added to the fun. All of us felt pretty blessed with the bright sunny skies, warm temps, aquamarine water, and good flows. The boat & BBQ on The Mile has been a tradition for us the last couple of years, I just can’t believe that the flows and weather allowed it to happen in late June, what a crazy snowmelt season! I'm already looking forward to next year’s event…

Taking in some much need fuel

Shuttle logistics...

Some head-cam footage of a lap down The Mile at 10" on the bridge gauge:

The mile at 15" on the bridge gauge:

"The Mile" (1.25') from Nate Pfeifer on Vimeo.

*New Gauge*
The USGS has added a new gauge to the NFMF Willamette, which can be found here.
I've started to list to try and create a correlation between it and the bridge gauge:
Date:_________ USGS Gauge:___ Pat's Correlation:___ Bridge Gauge:
Rain Fed:
11/11/10__________2.7' __________ 825cfs _____________5"
11/27/10 _________2.87' __________980cfs _____________6"
Snow Melt:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making a Breakdown Paddle

After borrowing a homemade two-piece breakdown from my buddy Loft (for our Deer Creek adventure), I had the inspiration to make my own from one of my old worn-down paddles. Not only did that paddle serve as an additional backup for the group, the two halves were also used to pitch my tarp, and worked extremely well.

Pseudo tent poles on our Deer Creek multi-day

Step 1 - Choosing a candidate:
Since this was my first attempt, I decided to pick the most worn of my retired paddles, just in case. This also meant that the paddle was a little shorter than the others, so it would be more likely to fit in different boats. On that note, the finished paddle, like Loft's, would only fit in my Prijon Hercules, not my Mystic. That said, it would probably be possible to cut more of the middle section to make it fit, which I may try if I ever decide to make another.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe...

Step 2 - Cutting the paddle in half:
This step was by far the hardest. Although there was only a slim chance I would ever need to dig into the bench three deep, we were talking about a ~$350 paddle, at least at one point in its life. Once I had come to grips with what I was about to do, it was time to cut 'er in half.

I ended up using a chop saw, which was probably the best tool for the job -- although if you don't have one, and you have a steady hand, you could probably do it with a handsaw. Since this was a bent-shaft paddle, I needed to use some blocking to elevate it as well as hold it off the fence, but still keep it square to the blade. Since I have a lot of scrap pieces of wood laying around, this wasn't a problem. Once I had the paddle shaft positioned correctly, the rest went smoothly, with the blade cutting through the shaft like a hot knife through butter.

Making the cut. Hope this works out...

Step 3 - Pre measurements:
Now that I had the paddle cut in half, I could measure the inside diameter (I.D.) of the shaft to determine what size sleeve I would need to join the paddle back together with. It appeared that Warner also uses a sleeve when they factory join the paddle into a one piece. Since you can't remove it, and since there really isn't a need to, I simply took the I.D. measurement of the sleeve. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was measuring about .010" over .875", so using a 7/8" tube would probably work great, without any modifications.

Taking the I.D. measurement of the shaft
(technically the existing sleeve)

Step 4 - Ordering parts:
Once I had the sleeve size, I went to my favorite website (from playing an engineer at work), McMaster Carr, who I knew would have everything I needed. I had already decided that I was going to use aluminum, for its cost, weight, and relative strength properties -- it also doesn't rust, which is certainly a requirement based on its use. With the specifications known, I quickly found what I needed and added it to my cart (part# 9056K73)

The next item I needed to order was a bit more difficult, since I didn't know what the heck it was called. "You know, that button thingy you press to lock/unlock the two halves together..." Well, this thing, according to McMaster Carr, is called a "Quick-Release Button Connectors for Telescoping Tubing", which I found for me after typing a couple keywords into the search box. Knowing the wall thickness and I.D. of the sleeve I had just ordered, plus the wall thickness of the paddle shaft, I was able to order the correct one, which for me happened to be part# 92988A530.

Step 6 - Wait for parts...

Step 7 - Preparing the sleeve:
A couple things needed to be done to turn the tubing into a sleeve for the breakdown. First I needed to cut it to size, and after measuring another breakdown that I owned, I determined that it should be cut to 7", for a 3 1/2" inset into each half of the shaft. The next thing I needed to do was drill holes in the side that would be permanently set into one of the halves; the reason for this is to strengthen the joint by giving the epoxy more to grab onto. After all the milling of the sleeve had been done, I smoothed over all edges with a file, sandpaper, and steel wool.

Drilling holes in the sleeve for extra glue purchase

The drilled sleeve

Step 8 - Epoxy the sleeve into one half of the paddle shaft:
Using a marine grade epoxy with a 2 hour set time, I set the sleeve into the end of the shaft ~3 1/2". Once it was in place, I removed the excess epoxy squeeze-out with a rag, and left it to dry for 24 hours. The nice thing about using the longer set time epoxy was that I didn't feel rushed during the process, plus I believe it also produces a stronger bond than the quick set stuff.

The epoxy that I used

Mixin' it up

A good coating on the inside of the paddle shaft...

...and on the sleeve

Note the epoxy "squeeze out" where the shaft and sleeve meet

With the squeeze out wiped off

Step 9 - Setting the blade angle offset:
With the sleeve/shaft glue joint properly cured, the two paddle halves were joined by telescoping the sleeve of the one half into the open end of the other. Now with the full-sized paddle in hand I rotated the halves until I had the proper blade offset, in my case 30 degrees (right-hand control). To do this I matched it up with my current paddle. Once the blade angle was set, I taped the shafts together to hold the proper offset while I drilled for the quick-release button (step 10).

Step 10 - Drilling the quick-release button hole:
Remember that part I didn't know the name of when I was ordering it? Well now it was time to drill the hole for it. With the two paddle halves together (at the correct blade offset), I clamped the paddle to my drill press using a homemade jig out of a 2x4 to center it below the drill bit. Once the paddle was aligned properly to the drill press, I drilled through one wall of both the paddle shaft and sleeve -- make sure you don't accidentally drill all the way through the whole shaft.

My homemade centering jig

Clamping the paddle in place

Drilling the button hole

Shaft and sleeve with button hole
(drilled through one wall only)

Step 11 - Waterproofing:
There is probably no way to completely keep water from getting in the shaft, but a few things I did to help prevent it from happening were:
1. Wedging a closed-cell foam plug down the shaft of each of the paddle halves.
2. Making a seam gasket out of a section of road bike tube (700c x 18-25), which could be slid over the seam of the assembled paddle halves.

My homemade seam gasket

Step 12 - Setting the quick release button into the shaft:
With the shaft drilled for the quick release button, I slid it down the shaft until it snapped into place -- pretty straightforward.

The "quick release button connector"

Inserting the button into the sleeve

The button snapped into place

Step 13 - Assemble the two paddle halves together:
Check your work by joining the two paddle halves together. You may need to do a small amount of sanding/filing to get them to go together smoothly. Once the halves have been joined, slide the homemade gasket over the seam. Voila, you're done!

Back to its original form!

Step 14 - Go boating:
Disassemble the paddle, throw it in the back of your kayak, and go boating!